Don’t Give Up: Your Purpose

So many of us who struggle with chronic things will, at times, feel like giving up for one reason or another. It’s not as difficult to experience trials for a short time, but after several months turns into several years, we often go through times of frustration, overwhelm, and sadness. And not just once, but it may recur several times throughout our chronic lives. This is what prompted me to write this series.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Last week, I shared why and how you shouldn’t give up looking for joy, humor, and beauty in your life that may live side by side with your chronic illness, financial struggles, or other long-lived difficulties. I started with that because that’s where sadness and depression begin. If you lose your joy, in time, you may find you lose your purpose, but as you can see from the above scripture, God gives a hope and a future to each of his children–even those with chronic issues.

I’d like to talk this week about that next step and ask you please don’t give up searching for your purpose. Many people feel a loss of purpose when they retire from a lifetime spent at a job or career. I know it happens less often now as most people find they can’t live on whatever (if any) retirement money they’ve accumulated. However, those of us with chronic illness have found it necessary to retire from jobs or careers and even ministries we once immersed ourselves in.

If you’re like me, you find yourself almost isolated from friends and family and from contact with the outside world. I quit working outside the home due to fatigue and when raising my kids. I have had to stop my online stores, selling on Amazon, and even my freelance writing. I have a tough time driving with my tremors now in my legs as well as my hands so I don’t go anywhere unless it’s to a doctor appointment or if my husband drives me to the store or to church. This was beginning to take its toll as I felt useless not only to my husband (I have some trouble getting enough energy to do housework at times as well) but to anyone else.

But just because you can’t go out, doesn’t mean you can’t find your purpose and work toward something you are passionate about. God has a plan for your life and He is smart enough and powerful enough to take into account any trials He already knows you are experiencing. That being said, each of us has a unique set of talents and experiences God can use to help others in various ways. The trick is to pray for Him to reveal them to you and give it time enough for Him to reveal it to you.

Some ideas for you:
1. Are you online? Social media has its problems, but it is SOCIAL after all. Get involved on a social media group. Start a Facebook group. Find a way to work from home that works for you. I was having a tough time focusing on the topics my writing clients needed as the research was too hard for me to focus on and the deadlines were difficult to meet if I was having a series of fatigue-plagued days. So, I decided to go back to writing what I’m passionate about and offering them for sale on my websites. More about that in later months.

2. Is there a ministry you have a heart for that you could help with from home? Nothing feels as good as being part of a wonderful ministry or charity!

3. Is there someone in your life who needs uplifting? You can start a daily text to uplift them. I did that once for a friend of mine going through some relocation woes with her small children. I texted her an uplifting scripture or a funny cartoon or saying. Know what I found? It uplifted me too!

4. Are you artistic in some way? I know a woman who paints and sells them online. I know another who creates incredibly gorgeous graphics with uplifting sayings. I know another who writes books and gets them traditionally published. What’s your thing?

There are a myriad of things out there if you give yourself enough time, focus and prayer to become clear to you. Drop me a note and tell me what you do or what you’d like to, or what the Lord has shown you after reading this. I’d love to hear!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Next week, I’m going to be sharing about how Satan uses our loss of joy and purpose to lead us to give up on the Lord.

Don’t Give Up Series Begins

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22

I thought I’d start the holiday season with a series of blog articles about not giving up. So many have a profound sadness or depression around this time of year because it reminds us of who is no longer with us. It chronicles what we can no longer do or what we no longer have since last holiday season.

Most of those struggling with chronic illness or other chronic issues will come to a time of desperation at some point or another. We all get to a level of discomfort, overwhelm, sadness, or frustration (or all of the above) when we feel we can no longer go on or we no longer want to. In fact, it may happen several times over the course of your life. It certainly has with me!

There are times when I feel like giving up. I’ve never really been suicidal, but I have had thoughts along the lines of, “God, if I meet with an unfortunate accident, I wouldn’t be at all upset! In fact, if you’d hurry that along, I’d be grateful!” But so many with chronic illness or issues feel a deep depression or thoughts of wanting their suffering to end in any way possible. If that’s you right now, I’d like to speak to your spirit this month.

The first thing I’d like to share with you is not to give up looking for your joy. Joy is something that leaves you first when you are overwhelmed, frustrated, and saddened by the long, difficult road of chronic issues. I’ve talked about this many times, but the phrase, “There’s light at the end of the tunnel” really bothers me and angers some with a chronic journey because our tunnel doesn’t end this side of heaven. So, if your tunnel doesn’t end, how can you see the light at the end of it?

Why you should not give up looking for joy:
1. The obvious answer is that without joy life doesn’t seem worth living. Without joy, there is only misery inside of that chronic illness tunnel.

2. Believe it or not, there IS joy inside your tunnel! No matter how dismal, draining, or painful your tunnel is. The beauty that was there around you is still there whether or not you’re looking for it. The grass is just as green and peaceful looking. The flowers are just as vibrant. Your children are just as precious. Your spouse’s smile is just as soothing.

3. The more you search for the joy, the more of it you will find. The more you find, the more it will minister to your soul.

4. The more you find your joy, the more you can share it with others even though you are going through tough times. This ties right in with my article for next week on purpose so I’ll have more on that next week.

How not to give up looking for joy:
1. If you’re going to find the joy, you’ve got to actively search for it. Satan has a habit of hiding the joys surrounding those who are in trials or struggling with things. Depression moves us away from our joy and isolates us from others. Those of us who have chronic illness are isolated enough already.

2. Actively searching for something is very different from casually noticing things so you will need to be conscious of every opportunity to find the humor, the beauty, and the kindnesses as life brings you to them. You must keep asking yourself, “What joy can I see right now?”

3. They say it takes 21 days to make a habit. After a few weeks of actively, consciously searching for the joy, you will find yourself able to see it without being active about it.

4. So, challenge yourself to take 21 days to find the joys, the humor, the beauty in each place you find yourself. Here are some ideas for you: Write down what you are thankful for each day. Keep a journal of the beauty around your house, your family, your job, your church, and your situation. What’s funny about the ridiculous situations you find yourself in? What has made you smile each day?

5. And then after 21 days or a month or so, take out your notes and reread them. Take special note of just how many you were able to find.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22

Next week, I’ll be sharing about the next thing to leave those with chronic issues: a sense of purpose. Stay with me on this journey. Check back next week and please share this with friends and family.

Four Things Satan Uses Against the Chronically Ill: Conclusion

Satan’s ultimate goal is to separate us from God and he will use whatever he can to distract us, deceive us, divide us, and finally to destroy us, but there are a few things we can do to combat this. Knowing that this is his goal is only half the battle. We also need to know how to defeat his efforts in our lives.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

  1. Be Aware: The first thing we need to do is to be aware that this is what is happening. Most of the time we are so busy fighting for our health and struggling with our daily issues to even notice that this is what he is doing. Chronic illness is the PERFECT target for Satan. It’s much easier to attack the weak and weary. But once we know that this is exactly what he does, we can be on the lookout and be proactive in thwarting his efforts to derail us.
  2. Be in the Word: Don’t let a day go by without reading and feeding your soul. Don’t let a day go by without going into your prayer closet and spending time with the Lord. If you can’t go to church, have church come to you. When I can’t make it out to church, we watch it on TV. I love Dr. Charles Stanley. I even record his sermons to watch later.
  3. Make an effort to connect: It’s easy to let ourselves drift from our support whether that’s family, friends, or church. Make an effort to get out if you can, invite others in, or reach out over the internet. Any time with others on the phone or over text is golden when you are alone with your thoughts on a regular basis.
  4. Find your calling: Find what feeds your soul and adapt it if need be to your health/financial issues. Make art, write those stories, take those pictures, blog about that topic that inspires you. See how many you can inspire, support, help, and feed with your talents. This makes for a productive and joyous heart.

God created each one of us with a purpose. Do you think that just because He has allowed chronic illness or financial struggles in our lives that He has taken that purpose away? No. That purpose may be handled differently or you may have a new purpose.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

No matter what struggle we must endure this side of heaven, God has blessed us with the tools we need to fulfill our purpose. That starts by understanding how Satan works to derail us and taking steps to use God’s Word, God’s people, and your God-given talents to take back your joy. Who’s with me?

Next month, I’ll be sharing a new series that will go a bit more into depth on our purpose despite chronic illness/issues for a series I’m doing called Don’t Give Up! I hope you’ll join me!

Four Things Satan Uses Against the Chronically Ill: Part 4

So Dr. Charles Stanley’s sermon on the four things Satan uses against us that I watched last month really touched me because I felt it applied in a specific way to those with chronic illness.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10

Satan’s ultimate goal is to separate us from God. First, he uses our chronic illness to distract us from our joy and from our purpose. Next, he deceives us into thinking we don’t matter. Then, he divides us from our support (family and friends), our church, and God’s Word in the hope that we will be distracted from God. When he does that, he stands a better chance of succeeding in the destruction of our faith.

At our lowest, we may question if God still loves us. There may be times when we may think that, if God really did love us, He wouldn’t allow us to go through all of this. At that point, we may begin to pull away from our church, our church family, and even God.

Knowing that Satan is out to destroy us, we need to be on the lookout for situations we find ourselves in that are ripe for Satan to use for just this purpose. I don’t know about you, but there are times when I’m so tired I don’t have enough energy to sit up. I am so exhausted that all I want to do is go to sleep. I can’t prevent the times when I’m too tired to go out or in too much pain to do something for someone, but I can control how I react to that.

I’m pretty ornery by nature. If someone tells me I can’t do something, I’m bound and determined to try (unless it’s something I don’t agree with anyway). I’m not saying I always recognize Satan’s tricks at the time or that I can always keep a sunny attitude. I’m just saying that I can decide to do whatever it may take for me to control my attitude and turn it around.

There are still times I am down. I still have times when I get angry and don’t recognize that I have blessings I’m not concentrating on at the moment. But I do eventually notice and I do eventually turn myself around. And I challenge you to do it too. I challenge myself to help you.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10

The way I look at it, if Satan’s desire is to turn me from my Lord and Savior and from my God-given purpose, then it’s my great pleasure to throw it back in his face as I cling even closer to Him and get creative to find a way to serve others according to His will however I can! Won’t you join me?

Four Things Satan Uses Against the Chronically Ill: Part 3

So far we’ve talked about distraction and deception, two of the four things Satan uses to keep us from our joy, our purpose, and our Lord. The next tactic that Dr. Stanley talked about was division.

But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls.” – Luke 11:17

It’s no surprise that one of the most important issues the chronically ill have is loneliness. We become isolated due to the lack of energy and the pain we deal with on a regular basis. That doesn’t allow us the ability to visit with friends and family or even hold a job. Isolation leads to a dividing us from our support system, our church family, our livelihood, and can eventually lead to losing our relationship with our Lord and Savior.

Little by little, we find ourselves alone much of the time questioning if our family and friends really love us. Busyness is a staple in modern life. Parents with young children are busy earning a living and running from activity to activity. People with lots of family around are busy with family events. Working people are busy working their way up the corporate ladder and business owners are busy wearing lots of hats. Very few take the time to reach out to people who they don’t see often.

Even people who aren’t busy don’t usually reach out to those they don’t see often. Top of mind is not just a sales technique, it’s a human rule of engagement. And, by the way, it isn’t just confined to the healthy.

That’s the reason nobody calls us, but there are reasons we don’t call anyone else either.

1. We’re afraid of seeming needy.
2. We are not comfortable asking for help.
3. We may not be able to keep a date to meet others elsewhere.
4. We don’t feel comfortable inviting people over because we may not have cleaned our house in a while.
5. We may not feel like entertaining, but we’d like someone to be with.
6. We don’t have an Any Time friends who we feel comfortable having over to just cry with us.

Once we have successfully, though unintentionally, isolated ourselves from others we begin to question if anyone really loves us. We may question if we are worthy of love.

So, how can we lift our isolation if we can’t get out and be with people? Fortunately, I have some ideas and technology plays a large roll.

1. We can become active in online groups and social media. Just because you can’t see someone’s face, doesn’t mean we can’t socialize! Online groups can help us feel connected. I run one of them on Facebook called, coincidentally, Life Beyond Surviving. Come join us!

2. We can start a blog, visit and comment on blogs that speak to us. Some blogs like this one are specifically for chronic illness, but others, like several others I write, are for fun. Have some fun! Be inspired. Be uplifted.

3. Start texting with friends you can’t get to see. I do that with my children, my family, friends in other states, and even with friends nearby that are not able to get away to be with me.

4. Call people on the phone. Use Skype. Keep in touch any way you can. It doesn’t take being in person to perk up your social life. Just talking to people will keep you from feeling isolated.

5. Ask anyway! Ask a friend to come over. It doesn’t have to be a formal thing that makes you feel you need to spend three days cleaning for. Just ask a friend. Talk to them. Be with them. Don’t worry about the dust. Don’t worry about being a burden. Most of the time, they will be happy to be asked in.

But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls.” – Luke 11:17

Next week, I’ll talk about the final part of Dr. Stanley’s message, but for today, promise me you’ll invite someone over, make a phone call, reach out online, or comment on some social media or blog posts. How about starting with this one? LOL

Four Things Satan Uses Against the Chronically Ill: Part 2

Last week we saw how Satan distracts us from our joy, our family, our ministry or work and even God’s Word as we struggle with chronic illness or issues. The next tactic he uses is deception.

What is the one thing you long for? What is the one thing that helps you get through any trial? What was the one thing that helped you get through the excruciating pain of natural childbirth? What’s the one thing we all need to feel about living any life? Purpose!

So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” – Revelation 12:9

I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t have taken the pain of childbirth with no end in sight and no REASON for it. Sadly, that is what many of us live with on a daily basis inside chronic illness. The pain doesn’t end. The fatigue never abates. But worst of all, there is no reason for it and, even more devastating, we feel like we serve no purpose!

I can only speak with any detail about myself, but even though I love the Lord and I work daily to keep my joy and serve others as best I can, I have times when I feel useless. No time epitomizes this more than just recently when my son left for his second year at Purdue this past month.

I usually wake up in joy looking for funny videos and creating memes that poke fun at the weird things that happen. One day, I woke up to an empty house. I thought about how my daughter is married and living in a nearby state giving her all to the things she loves, the job she excels at, and the people in her life. I thought about how my son is working hard making the most of his college years living on campus, running a club on campus, and learning about leadership as he is one of the founding members of a fraternity recolonizing the campus this year. I thought about how my husband works so hard at his job and comes home to do things for me or our children.

What struck me that day was not as much the loneliness which I’ve felt for quite some time on and off, but the pointlessness of my life…or at least what struck me as a total lack of purpose. I used to work full time. At one point, I had three jobs! I stopped working an online business not too long ago due to my growing fatigue.

After watching Dr. Stanley’s sermon that day, I realized that this is one of the Enemy’s tricks he uses to deceive us. He wants us to believe we have no purpose to take away our joy so we give up our dreams without a fight. Even though I had come to accept that I could no longer work outside the house and even though I knew I was contributing with this blog and the Life Beyond Surviving Facebook group, he got me to feel I no longer had a purpose.

I had begun feeling sad, crying during the day, reminiscing about all the things I did, and all the things I thought I’d do when I had more time. Life after 17 years of homeschooling wasn’t supposed to be like this. What I realized is that life may take twists and turns, but no matter what happens I have a purpose in Christ. It may not be grandiose with me appearing on TV or as a YouTube sensation, but it is a purpose none the less.

There are things I know that can help someone else struggling through their trails. And if I can help just one person, that is reason enough not to lose hope and to move forward in joy to reach any and all who need to be lifted up out of their own despair the devil has devised for them.

What is your purpose? Not what did you want it to be. Not what did you think it could be. Not what you spent years training for it to be. What is something you can do right NOW that will make a difference for someone else?

Close your eyes. Find even one thing you can focus on right now that will give you a purpose, allow you to feel joy, and bring something positive to others. Now, open your eyes. What is it?

So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” – Revelation 12:9

Take that, Satan!

Four Things Satan Uses Against the Chronically Ill: Part 1

I was listening to Charles Stanley a little while back. He was discussing four things Satan uses against us: distraction, deception, division, and destruction. Dr. Stanley was speaking in general, but as I listened to him, I began thinking about how he specifically uses those very same things against those with chronic illness and it moved me to write this series.

I’ve said it many times before, but it’s worth repeating. The chronic part of chronic illness is what makes it so different from any other trails I’ve struggled with in my life. My Bradley childbirth instructor told me that “people can stand just about anything for a short time. so when you feel like you can’t stand the pain anymore, that’s usually when the baby is born. ” She was spot on for both of my children’s births.

The fact that you know the pain will end and that you will get a beautiful baby at the end of it gives you hope. There is no such hope in chronic illness because there is no cure and often there isn’t much relief either. That hopelessness that exists for many chronic illness sufferers is the reason Satan targets us the way he does to distract, deceive, divide, and destroy not only our strength but our faith.

and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” – Mark 4:19

The first thing that Satan does is to distract us: from our jobs, from our family and friends, and from our purpose in the Kingdom. It’s hard to follow the Lord’s leading for our lives when we are so consumed with pain, fatigue, or overwhelmed by the money problems that are so common with chronic illness.

It usually happens so gradually that we don’t realize we’ve been distracted until we look back one day. We remember how we’ve been too tired to participate in church events like we used to. We notice how we’ve been so overwhelmed that we forgot that we used to love to listen to praise and worship music. We suddenly realize that we haven’t read our Bibles in a few days…or a few months.

Fatigue, pain, overwhelm, and financial struggles are all things Satan uses to distract us from the things we love, from God’s Word, and from feeling God’s love as well as from the work we were designed to do for the Kingdom.

I have noticed this several times in my life and in my walk with God. I don’t think it happens only once. It can happen with each new diagnosis. It can happen with each new difficulty. It can happen with each new flare or an unexpected bill that now requires time and focus to figure out how to pay it.

Now that I know this is how Satan works, I’m ready. I have my Bible reading on my To-Do List for each day so I’m less likely to miss a day. I catch myself being overwhelmed and I turn myself around if I’m feeling distracted by pain or fatigue as soon as I notice myself being distracted from the things I feel I was put here to do. I’m not saying it’s easy and I’m not saying I don’t get distracted. I’m just saying I’m a lot more conscious of it and I take measures to focus more on my purpose than my problem.

and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” – Mark 4:19

I’ll be talking more about this in the weeks to come as distraction relates directly to deception, division, and destruction. For now, I’ll leave you with this thought: in what ways are you distracted and what are you going to do to make sure you get back on track of living a joyous and productive life no matter what life throws at you?

Change Your Terminology

Chronic illness is not only isolating because it takes away some amount of our ability to get out and do things. It is also isolating because it’s not understood. WE are not understood. It came to my attention last month that this could be partially our own fault. Now, before you look for that stone to cast in my general direction, please read on.

How many times have you not told someone how you really feel for fear of being told you’re “complaining?” How many times have you under-reported to your friends and family how MUCH you hurt? How tired you REALLY are? Part of what I’ve shared here is not to talk about our issues too much with those who don’t understand it in order to minimize the frustration that comes from being questioned, grilled really, or told we don’t look sick or are making mountains out of molehills.

However, recently I reflected on my training in speech communication. The titles of most of my communication studies start out, “Say What You Mean…” and I wondered if there is a need to do that in our chronic life. Maybe it’s time we started saying what WE mean.

Replace Overused Terms
I’m really tired today” sounds like every Tom, Dick, and Mary who had a tough day yesterday. “I’m REALLY tired.” doesn’t sound much better. How many times have you heard someone who doesn’t have a chronic illness say that? What about when YOU said that and had someone reply with, “Yeah, I worked late last night.” It suddenly occurred to me that uttering overused terms might be part of the reason we aren’t taken as seriously when we try to share how we feel with those who don’t have the same point of reference for chronic illness as we do.

Terms like tired and pain have been used to mean anything from “I was up late studying last night” and “I cut myself shaving” to “I’m too exhausted to take a shower” and “I had my wisdom teeth out without benefit of novocaine!” Instead, it might be better to…

Be More Specific
In some cases, it might be better to use more specific terms. Even words like exhausted, worn out, and run down are overused. Often it’s more descriptive to use words the medical profession refers to like weak or fatigued. Pain can be referred to by the scale of 1-10 as it is by most chronic illness physicians.

At Other Times, it’s Better to Spell Things Out
Let’s face it, even exhausted doesn’t describe how we feel. Sometimes it’s best to give a short example of how tired we are that illustrates better what we deal with. “I’m so exhausted, I had to rest after taking a shower.” “I wake up feeling like I can’t get out of bed.

Another way to describe your pain is with the specific word for the type of pain you are experiencing: ache, twinge, throb, sharp pain, stabbing pain, or excruciating pain.

Don’t Use Terms That Don’t Mean Anything to Them
Lastly, though we who have these conditions know what they are, many who don’t have never even heard of the name of it let alone what it means for those who struggle with it.

While most people probably have heard of Fibro or Chrones, or Lupus, they have no idea what it means. Many people think Fibromyalgia is just pain and I don’t think many have any idea what Chrones or Lupus is at all. In some cases, it makes sense to give a good friend or close relative a more in-depth description of your illness or situation in order for them to be of more support. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time conversing or being with a person, it makes sense to give them the tools to understand why you may not feel up to getting together.

Some conditions are much less known that even the name of it isn’t ringing any bells for most people. I never heard of Essential Tremor until I was diagnosed with it. Not only is Essential Tremor not descriptive, but it’s counter-intuitive. Sounds like something you NEED. lol

Another term neurologists use is Benign Essential Tremor. Benign? Try living with shaking so bad you stab yourself in the eye trying to put on mascara or spill hot coffee on your lap! Instead of using the specific medical diagnosis, I often refer to it as tremors or as a neurological disorder.

In the case of Fibro, it’s more descriptive to use the term, Central Nervous System disease. That gives it the proper respect for the havoc it causes in the lives of Fibro Warriors and the kinds of issues we need to deal with on a daily basis.

Finally, the term chronic illness, itself, isn’t fully understood by most people. I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me if I’m all better now. It amazes me, but people don’t get the chronic part of chronic illness.

Chronic means there is NO Cure and the best that can be hoped for, without a miracle of God, is for it to be managed. Believe it or not, that is something that must be explained from time to time. People who don’t live with a chronic issue have no frame of reference for this. To them, long-term is a few months at most.

I pray this has ministered to your soul. I pray that this helps you get across to those in your life who need to know what your chronic illness means for you and I pray that it allows you more support from family and friends.

I have chronic illness. What’s a comfort zone?

I wrote this quite a while ago back on another blog, but I had to go looking for it because I kept coming across these memes on Facebook and it got me thinking about this again. Here it is as I wrote it many years ago:

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Comfort Zone: I had to look that up because I wasn’t familiar with the concept.  I might have misplaced my comfort zone.  I’m not sure I ever had one.  This is something I often see online or mentioned in high-powered, self-help books and seminars:

“Ya gotta step out of your comfort zone or nothing will ever change in your life!”

“Nothing great was ever accomplished inside your comfort zone!”

“If you want to achieve incredible things, you HAVE to get out of your comfort zone!”

Where exactly IS my comfort zone? I’d like to claim this piece of real estate.  In fact, I’d like to vacation there on a semi-permanent basis.  I’ve been searching for it for the past 35 years, but I never have located it.  I don’t remember ever being there, even as a kid.  The only thing comfortable or stable about my life has been how often it changes.

Two weeks after I was born in Colorado, my family moved out of state.  Florida was a two-year engagement, New York was an eight or nine-year gig, but part one was in the city for a while, part two was on Long Island for five years and part three was across town for another two.  I did an 18-month stint in Virginia followed by several years in California.  From 1977 to 2008 I lived in seven different California locations.  I never saw my comfort zone there or in the desert heat of ARIDzona where we were for 5.5yrs and, so far, it hasn’t turned up in the 10 months we’ve been in the deep freezer of Indiana either.

I was always the oddball in school. I was the new kid on the block who liked to read, was very shy and didn’t know why the guy at Dairy Queen on the corner was the butt of all the jokes. I was the one who didn’t know how to get around school, couldn’t find her way to the mall or understand the latest fad.  I wore the wrong jeans (which I called dungarees), had the wrong purse (which I called a pocketbook) and didn’t even know how to pronounce the names of the streets (SePULveda which my family pronounced SepulVEda for the first few months in southern California). Try using the “wrong” terms or pronunciation with teens and see how comforted you feel.

In college and just afterward, this shy gal had several sales jobs.  I sold real estate, pay telephones, videos and teddy bears.  Sometimes I had three jobs, but I wouldn’t describe any of them as comfortable.  It was a bit scary and not only because I had to talk to people.  Some of the people I had to talk to were in a part of town that was downright scary and the business owners didn’t easily give me any credibility.  Ever try to convince a Middle Eastern male business owner to take you seriously when you’re a 5′ nuthin’ female?  Not comfortable in the least.

I did time: 8 years in customer service. Got off for good behavior. LOL  If you think that job is easy, remember how many people call customer service because they are HAPPY.  But all that aside, a co-worker, for reasons unknown to mankind,  decided I was a threat to her moving up in the company and took it upon herself to trash my work and reputation to the entire office.  She stood up in the middle of the office and yelled at me about how I was doing a horrible job and how I was trying to keep her from getting promoted.  Management came out and, instead of stopping her, they just watched. Later on, we were both called into the office where they told me that I was on thin ice there.  ME?

She began putting notes in all my files accusing me of poor performance and talking about me to all the staff.  I was eventually told they wanted to demote me. I told them they could fire me, but I wouldn’t take a demotion.  I never retaliated as God told me to do what was right. 

Later on, I left the company because I started my own business and could work from home and be with my daughter.  A year or so later, I went back to visit a friend there and was told that the gal who trashed me had a nervous breakdown in the ladies room after they all realized what she’d been doing.  Trust me, that wasn’t my comfort zone either.

I made many decisions that either weren’t very popular or were not easily understood.  I was challenged to prove why I homeschooled and the fact that it wasn’t illegal or immoral.  I was the only Christian in my family. Not a comfortable topic of conversation.  In addition, I had to justify why I had my own business instead of getting a secure job with a steady paycheck like most people did.  I worked my tail off at my business and built it up to where I was earning $3000/month only to have the bottom fall out of the economy in 2008 and virtually wipe out my income.  Comfort zone? I think not!

You all know how our first year here in NW Indiana went. If you don’t, you can read it here.  The weather outside is frightful and thunderstorms are not delightful…or comforting.

Then there is the matter of dealing with chronic illness. I know my readers are intimately familiar with this one! If you don’t know my story, you can listen to my video here.  Chronic illness often leads us out of our comfort zone, if we ever had one.  We struggle to do things most people take for granted.  I talked more about this in my recent post, Looking Back: I Used to Run.

So all this to say, I think many of us who struggle with chronic illness or other chronic issues can’t find our comfort zone, but we wish we could! We wish we were comfortable, but the pain is too severe.  We wish we could live at ease, but we struggle just to get through the day.  How many of you would like to find your comfort zone?  What would you do there?

For many years I was frustrated that I wasn’t afforded a comfort zone until I realized that God is my comfort zone.  He strengthens those of us without a comfort zone.  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” –Matthew 11:28,  Sounds like a good comfort zone to me.  How about you?

War Wounds

This is an article I wrote a few years ago after I had a revelation about how young boys think about their scars. It changed my perspective and I thought it might help someone else out there. I share it again because it’s worth repeating!

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Ever notice that boys love to show off their war wounds?  They eagerly relate the stories that came to create their scars–each in his turn trying to top the other’s story.

Women don’t do that.  In fact, we tend to hide our scars. We cover them up with clothing, makeup, and embarrassment.  It becomes a source of stress that someone will notice and that we will have to apologize for it.  We desperately look for ways to keep our wrinkles at bay, our skin from sagging and crinkling. We take sometimes drastic measures to keep thin, to lose weight, to cover up our widening hips.  In the dark of night when nobody is watching, we may cry over the person we once were and can no longer see in the mirror.  We look at our bodies and despair over what has happened to us.

Well, I’ve decided to take a page from the Men’s War Wound Playbook. I choose to look at my scars, premature aging, turkey waggle, and car accident deformities as a sign of strength that declares to the world that I lived through all of that and I’m still here to tell the tale.  Somehow that makes me bold instead of weak, an over-comer instead of a victim.

Most of my scars are in areas of my body only my husband and I will ever see, but one of them is now proudly displayed on my neck where all can see.  Some day the scar might fade and the lump may finally disappear completely, but for now, here it is in all its glory.

The first is a headshot of me with my laugh lines (well earned) and my turkey waggle and a hint of my parathyroid surgery war wounds.  The following two show more detail of the latter.  

The last one is a picture of my hand after the car accident and shows how my middle finger now likes to cozy up to my ring finger upon making a fist.  I sure am unique, right?  I’ll bet none of you have the same combination of war wounds.  

Won’t you join me?  What’s the story behind your scars?